It’s been interesting to watch the volatile world of the stock markets lately. The financial markets are a foreign thing to most native people. In the Ojibway world, for instance, a stock trade is usually three chickens and a goat for one good cow and a margin call is something that happens at dinner. As in “pass the margin for my bannock.”
There’s bull markets and bear markets. Those are confusing concepts to us. We’ve always known there was a big market for bull in this world, particularly when the government refers to our issues, and a bear market was the number of hunters to guide every fall. So we’re a little lost at the excitement.
I’ve worked hard all my life and I’ve only ever had one bad day at the market. But that’s because someone ran over my cart in the parking lot. As far as most native people know, an inside trader is the man at the counter in the Northern Store and blue chips are those fancy taco chips you pay an arm and a leg for.
So when the world gets all in a flap over a stock market frenzy we wonder what’s really going on. To a native person, a credit fiasco is not being able to borrow on your house on the reserve. We’ve always watched the dollar go up and down. Mostly when we were flipping one in the aisle trying to decide between Kraft Dinner or tuna.
Most Native people are dubious of the markets. After all, trading never really worked out all that well for us. In the old days we’d trade a musket tall pile of furs for some beads and a blanket. Then there was the whole Manhattan Island thing, and no one’s ever really gotten over tobacco, corn and snowshoes for diabetes and alcohol.
Nope, for a culture whose idea of a market index is the big green board at the shopping mall, the stock frenzy was mostly lost on us. But we empathized. After all, we went long on sovereignty in the 1870s and lost our shirts and we really got taken for a ride when it came to real estate.
But we’re hoping things settle down soon. Our non-native friends get all in a tizzy over money, interest rates, foreclosures, credit practices and a looming recession. They’re afraid of some faceless person in power ignoring their needs and security. I guess everyone gets to be an Indian now.